I was recently hired to tutor for 2 class periods at a high school, and we’re on a Thursday with a 4-day weekend (holiday on Friday and Monday), students were very excite not to work.
The first class is made up of 11th and 12th graders. In this class, I spent most of the period helping a student in his Statistics class. After that, I was asked to give feedback to a student for her Speech class (tone, eye contact, body language, and does the speech she cut down articulate well). I gave the feedback and she knew what she was doing and was doing her best, and she was appreciative. Usually, I’d circulate in the class and ask each student if they needed help with anything, and the answer was 99% “no” or “I’m good”.
The second class is made up of 9th graders and they’re squirrelly. In the second class, I spent most of the period trying to get my group of students to focus on the problem at hand, and then to actually do what they’re supposed to do. They’ve been doing this since middle school so this is routine. Anyway, there was a lot of back-and-forth, goofing around, and eventually, one student said some mean things to a student who was bullied and that student had enough and admitted rather loudly that he’s being bullied every day, and called the first student a bully. The first student said he that first student hurt his feelings when he called him a bully, he didn’t know the second student was being bullied, and the revelation changed his tone.
I told both of the students to tell the other that they’re sorry for the things they said. I looked at student one and he followed, and then student two (who said he was in the wrong) but apologized anyway. Then the second student left the group and began reading a book. The fist student said, rather loudly, that he didn’t know the second student was being bullied. He continued to say that that’s how he talk to his friends, and another member of the group agreed, since that’s how they talk to each other and his friends know he’s joking. I first acknowledged that I don’t think the first student meant to be mean or be a bully. Then I explained the second student’s perspective, that if he’s getting bullied all the time, that’s what he sees all the time. I continued that we don’t know what each person is going through or what they deal with. I reiterated to the first student that he didn’t know the second student’s situation and I don’t think he was mean on purpose, because that’s how he spoke to his friends.
Then I went to the second student and said that the first student is sorry and didn’t know he was being bullied. I continued that the first student didn’t intend to be mean intentionally, because he didn’t know and that’s how he talk to his friends. Now that he knows, he won’t do it again. The second student just said “OK” and continued to read his book.
After class ended, I told the teacher.
The 9th graders will be OK.
Reflections on today. It’s a good day because there was some real learning going on. Class 1, Student 1 was learning how to solve a couple of math word problems. Class 1, Student 2 was appreciative of the solid feedback she received for something she’s doing her best in. Class 2, Student 1 learned some boundaries that you can only learn in social settings. Class 2, Student 2 received some attention that he might want or might not want on him and bullying.
In addition, here are some revelations. For Class 1, Student 2, it was only after I was home, a little relaxed that I remembered sources she could refer to and something else she could do with her voice. She could look at last year’s Democratic National Convention at the speech made by the father of a Purple Heart recipient (the one who offered the current POTUS his copy of a pocket Constitution), and Michelle Obama’s speech after a video was unearthed, depicting the current POTUS saying that he grabbed women’s downstairs parts because he could, and because he was famous, they let him do it. In the father’s speech, it was clear that he held back anger toward the current POTUS and what he campaigned for, and that was very powerful. In Michelle Obama’s speech, her voice was shaking, like she couldn’t believe someone who sexually assaulted women was running for the highest office in this country, and that this could happen to any girl and woman. Subsequently, girls and women shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault online, and those who paid attention could see how widespread this silent problem has become.
For Class 2, Student 2, I wish I told him that it will get better.